Kin punishment

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Kin punishment is the practice of punishing the family members of someone accused of a crime, either in place of or in addition to the perpetrator. It refers to the principle of a family sharing responsibility for a crime committed by one of its members, and is a form of collective punishment. Kin punishment has been used by authoritarian states as a form of extortion, harassment, or persecution. Countries that have practiced kin punishment include pre-Christian European cultures, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and non-Western cultures including China, Japan, and North Korea.

Traditional examples[edit]

  • Traditional Irish law required the payment of a tribute (Éraic) in reparation for murder or other major crimes. In the case of homicide, if the attacker fled, the fine had to be paid by the tribe to which he belonged.[1]
  • In medieval Welsh law, the kin of an offender was liable to make compensation for his wrongful act. This penalty (called Galanas) was generally limited to murder.[2]
  • The medieval Polish Główszczyzna fine functioned similarly to the Anglo-Saxon and Scandic weregild.
  • Traditional Arab society, which is clan-based, strongly adheres to the concept of collective responsibility. Bedouins recognize two main forms of penalty for a crime against a member. These are blood revenge, referred to as Qisas (قصا, "revenge") and blood money, Diyya (دية, "blood money"/"ransom"). In cases of severe crimes such as murder and rape, blood revenge is the proscribed punishment. If a murder occurs, clansmen of the victim have the right to kill the murderer or one of his male clansmen with impunity. Certain crimes are liable for multiple acts of revenge, for example, the murder of women and children is avenged fourfold. Crimes considered treacherous, such as the murder of a guest, are also avenged fourfold. Alternatively, a crime punishable by blood revenge can be commuted to a severe fine if the family of the offended party agrees to it. Blood money is paid jointly by the clan of the offending member to the clan of the victimized member. Bedouins differentiate between crimes in which the group must pay as a standing obligation without reimbursement from the perpetrator of the offense, and crimes where the latter must reimburse them. Crimes where the clan is obligated to pay a joint fee without any reimbursement are murder, violent assault, or insults and other offenses committed during a violent conflict. The collective payment of fines for such crimes is viewed as a justified contribution to the welfare of the injured party, rather than a penalty to the perpetrator. Other offenses given a blood-price are crimes against property and crimes against honor.[3] Concepts based on the Arabian laws of blood revenge and blood money are found in Islamic Sharia law, and are thus variously adhered to in Islamic states.
  • China historically adhered to the concept of liability among blood relatives. During the Qin and Han dynasties, families were subject to various punishments according to the punishment of the offending member. When the offense was punishable by death by severing the body at the waist, the offender's parents, siblings, spouse, and child were executed, when the offense was punishable by death and public display of the body, the offender's family was subject to imprisonment with hard labor, when the offender's sentence was exile, their kin was exiled along with them.[4] The most severe punishment, given for capital offenses, was the Nine familial exterminations (zú zhū (族誅), literally "family execution", and miè zú (灭族/滅族)), implemented by tyrannical rulers. This punishment entailed the execution of all the close and extended kin of the individual, categorized into nine groups: four generations of the paternal line, three from the maternal line, and two from the wife's. In the case of Confucian scholar Fang Xiaoru, his students and peers were uniquely included as a tenth group.

Other examples[edit]

Communist states[edit]

In the Soviet Union, during Joseph Stalin's 1930s Great Purge, many thousands of people were imprisoned to Gulag as "relatives of the enemies of the people", using the Repression of Family Members of Traitors of the Motherland clause as a basis. One well-known example was Anna Larina, the wife of Nikolai Bukharin, who was imprisoned after her husband was accused of treason. The NKVD Order No. 00689, signed in 1938, rolled back some of the more extreme measures, as such that only spouses who were informed of their partner's political activities were arrested.

Similar practices took place in the People's Republic of China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. A prominent example is Deng Pufang, who was arrested and tortured by the Red Guards when his father, Deng Xiaoping, was purged by Mao Zedong.

In regards to North Korea, there are uncorroborated allegations of political prisoners being sent to the Kwan-li-so "concentration camps" along with their relatives, allegedly without any fair trial.[5] North Korean citizens convicted of more serious political crimes are allegedly sentenced to life imprisonment, and there are uncorroborated claims that the subsequent two generations of their family (children and grandchildren) will be born in camps such as the Kaechon internment camp as part of the alleged and unconfirmed "3 generations of punishment" policy allegedly instigated by state founder Kim Il-Sung in 1948.[5]

Historical and Nazi Germany[edit]

In traditional Germanic law, the law of Germanic peoples (before the widespread adoption of Roman canon law) accepted that the clan of a criminal was liable for offenses committed by one of its members. In Nazi Germany, this concept was revived so that the relatives of persons accused of crimes against the state, including desertion, were held responsible for those crimes.[6][7]


In November 2013 the Russian Federation legalized punishments against the family of an individual convicted or suspected of committing terrorist acts. These laws were passed under Vladimir Putin in advance of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Under these laws property can be seized even under the mere suspicion that a relative was involved in terrorism.[8][better source needed]


The Israeli government's use of home demolition within territories occupied in 1967 was condemned as collective punishment on account that the homes of terrorists are often family homes. As a result of internal and international pressure against the practice an appeals process against demolition was established in 1989, and consequently the number of demolitions declined. However, in subsequent periods of violence the house demolition policy has been frequently employed as a deterrent against terrorism.[9][10] In an effort to stop suicide bombings during the Second Intifada, the Supreme Court of Israel in July 2002 accepted the legality of expelling family members of terrorists from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip if they were found to have abetted the terrorist's activities. They argued that it was not a general deterrent because it limited the use of expulsion to cases where "that person, by his own deeds, constitutes a danger to security of the state."[11] Expulsion to Gaza was discontinued after Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wake, Charles Staniland (1 January 1878). The Evolution of Morality. Trübner & Company. p. 363 – via Internet Archive.
  2. ^ "Welsh tribal law" (PDF).
  3. ^ Bailey, Clinton (14 May 2014). "Bedouin Law from Sinai and the Negev: Justice Without Government". Yale University Press – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Historians, National Committee of Japanese (1 January 1990). "Historical Studies in Japan (VII): 1983-1987". BRILL – via Google Books.
  5. ^ a b ""Escapee Tells of Horrors in North Korean Prison Camp", Washington Post, December 11, 2008". The Washington Post. December 11, 2008. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  6. ^ Loeffel, Robert (2012). Family Punishment in Nazi Germany, Sippenhaft, Terror and Myth. Palgrave. pp. 53–88. ISBN 9780230343054.
  7. ^ Fest, Joachim (1996). Plotting Hitler's Death. New York: Henry Holt. p. 303. ISBN 0080504213.
  8. ^ Sippenhaft wie zu Zeiten Stalins (in German)
  9. ^ ""Israel Destroys Homes to Deter Terrorists", ABC News, January 6, 2006". ABC News. September 30, 2002. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  10. ^ ""Oppression wird um Sippenhaft angereichert", Süddeutsche Zeitung, November 20, 2014". Süddeutsche Zeitung. November 20, 2014. Retrieved January 6, 2016.
  11. ^ ""Court Says Israel Can Expel 2 of Militant's Kin to Gaza", New York Times, September 4, 2002". New York Times. September 4, 2002. Retrieved February 23, 2016.